The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) is calling on the USDA to put a warning label on processed meat and poultry products telling consumers that eating those foods is associated with an increased risk of colorectal cancer. bacon, ham, hot dogs, and other processed products would have that label.
The regulatory petition CSPI filed yesterday cites the findings of the International Agency for Research on Cancer, which found in 2015 that processed meat is “carcinogenic to humans.” The study found that eating 50 grams per day of processed meat raises the risk of developing that particular kind of cancer by about 18%. A typical serving size of those meats is about 55 grams.
Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in this country. It will cause almost 50,000 deaths in 2016.
Michael F. Jacobson, CSPI executive director, said in a statement, “Consumers deserve these warning labels to help them make informed choices about the foods they eat. Consumers who want to reduce their cancer risk may avoid processed meats or eat them much less often; other people may simply ignore the label. But without question, USDA should give people that choice.”
The USDA can require the warning labels under the Federal Meat Inspection Act. The USDA is legally obligated to make sure industries tell consumers about food risks.
The statement CSPI would like to see on processed meat packages is: “USDA WARNING: Frequent consumption of processed meat products may increase your risk of developing cancer of the colon and rectum. To protect your health, limit consumption of such products.”
Nutrition experts want to see this label too. A dozen experts sent a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, stating “People want clear and accurate information about potential health hazards in the foods they eat to help them make wise choices at the grocery store and restaurant.” The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation estimate that processed meats may have contributed to 5,000 colorectal cancer deaths in 2015 alone.
Jacobson continued, “We recognize that the chances of the Trump administration taking advantage of this opportunity to protect the public health are slim. But at CSPI we’re used to taking the long view. We will continue pushing for regulatory measures that will protect the health of Democrats, Republicans, and all others.”